|From Lisa Simpson's famous tarot reading|
Chiriku's opinion is that a spread is best for beginners in all cases, as well as being best for highly skilled and experienced readers who are reading for themselves. He gives as example the many beginners who post their positionless self-readings in the 'Your Readings' sub-forum at AT -- people who have asked a question, put out 3, 5 or even more cards and tried to free-form an interpretation from them. The fact that they are so very confused and seeking help in interpreting demonstrates that the positionless spread is ineffective for beginners. I agree, beginners really should stick to spreads. Beginners and even more experienced readers are highly susceptible to their own biases with free-form self-readings. This type of reading involves weaving cards into a narrative interpretation, and because we are so intimately aware of the complete back story to our own situation, and most importantly have a personal point of view about it, a positionless throw becomes rife with potential for self-deception. The spread, on the other hand, provides a protective barrier against unintentional bias by giving a context in which to interpret each card, rather than weaving a series of cards together in what could well become an entirely inaccurate direction.
I often use positionless throws when reading for others, and occasionally when reading for myself. Based on my experience, it does seem to be the case that a positionless throw is easier to do for strangers. My lack of both background knowledge and personal emotional involvement in a situation lends the sort of objectivity and distance needed for accuracy. If a reader is too close to the subject or situation, it's very tempting to go off on personal tangents, to read things into the cards that fall into the groove of our own thinking, rather than letting the cards speak in a way that can shake us up or show us a new angle on a situation -- which is the reason we use tarot in the first place!
My favourite spreads are variations on the 3-card spread. I find it the most versatile of draws and the information you can pull out of a 3-card spread is sufficient for just about any question you can think of! Next favourites:
The Magic Cauldron - a 4-card draw which is best for examining the causes and a possible solution for a specific problem
Bewitched! - a 5-card draw laid out in the shape of a pentagram, great for when you want to know how you're deluding yourself and how to break through obstacles in a particular situation
Churchyard - a 13-card spread in which you take the Fool out before you shuffle the rest, then draw 12. Add the Fool back into those 12 cards, set the remainder of the deck aside. Shuffle the 13 card stack and then lay them out in a long row. Wherever the Fool falls is where you are in the situation you've asked about. Cards that fall before the Fool are things you are not conscious of. Those that fall after are things that you are aware of. This spread really helps you see what you don't know, or haven't allowed yourself to see. Also gives an idea of whether a particular cycle is nearly finished or just getting started, etc.
Pathways - a 10-card spread which is ideal for choosing between two courses of action
Original Spreads - These are the spreads you make up based on the query, usually by breaking the question down into its component parts. Custom spreads.
And then the spreads I personally find least effective:
Celtic Cross - the ubiquitous 10-card spread found in every tarot book and box. I don't find it very useful at all; in fact, it is quite clunky!
Horseshoe - another very common spread, another clunker in my opinion.
Themed or gimmick spreads - I sometimes play around and make up spreads like this, but for the most part, I don't like them and find them ineffective. Too forced.
What do you think of spreads? Do you have a favourite?